Donald Trump's "Celebrity Politician" Show

Donald Trump speaks at the Conservative Political Action conference on February 10, 2011, in Washington.
Mark Wilson/Getty Images

OPINION: Donald Trump is serious about business, and perhaps a political career. When he is not hosting "Celebrity Apprentice," or wheeling and dealing properties, conducting beauty pageants and lending his luxury brand promise to bedsheets and stemware, he is cultivating and measuring his presidential aspirations.

"The Donald," as he is sometimes called, has been coy about declaring his presidential intentions, but he is working hard at playing the role of fledgling, outspoken candidate, captured in his  familiar refrain on the state of the nation: "The U.S. is becoming the laughing stock of the world."

Trump is exercising his skill in creating twists and turns to keep viewers and voters on the edge of their seats for his twin duties of reality show host and furtive presidential aspirant.

In fact, it's difficult to tell whether he is performing in "Celebrity Politician," a parallel reality show to "Celebrity Apprentice" in which he is a contestant applying for the job of running America, or merely a celebrity, billionaire host who gets to fire people after performing a set of challenges to raise money for charities on primetime TV and also want to change the direction of the country.

The 64-year-old Trump has voiced presidential interest in the past, and aligned himself at times with Republican, Democrat and independent parties. This time he is catering to the Tea Party and aligning with the fringe "birther" movement that questions President Obama's citizenship.

In another bow to more conservative voters, a web site, Should Trump Run?, run by a Trump senior executive and promoting his candidacy, includes an image of Trump with the adjoining quote: "It's cold where's global warming?" Trump also recently flip-flopped on earlier support for universal healthcare.

The suspense may be over soon after the season finale of "Celebrity Apprentice." According to spokesperson, Trump plans to piggyback on the May 22 season finale reveal of "Celebrity Apprentice" to reveal the time and place of a press conference at which time he may reveal whether he will be a Republican candidate for the presidential nomination.

Trump may be thinking seriously about the job of running America, but it's not clear if given the job by voters, he would relish the opportunity. Commander in Chief of the United States could give him a kind of international legitimacy he might crave, but he would also take on the most difficult, complex and serious job in the world on a stage that dwarfs the Miss Universe pageant his company co-produces with NBC Universal.

He told Talk 1300 radio host Fred Dicker, "I would rather not run. I love what I'm doing. You know I have a great company. I love doing it. I'm having fun. I have a nice life. This is not easy, and it's not necessarily fun."

Sounding like Sarah Palin, who said she would run if no one who met her expectations were in the hunt, Trump said, "But somebody has to take the bull by the horns. This country is in bad shape. We're laughed at. We're scoffed at. We're a joke throughout the world. Look at Libya. What a joke. We don't even know what we're doing over there," he said.

Trump has not been shy about criticizing the president and handicapping his chances. "I think he's done such a bad job. "I think he's been such a terrible president, that I really believe that if I were chosen to run against him, I would win," he told Dicker.

It's easy to act on the presidential election stage, but Trump, who likes to win, must be calculating the dim odds of succeeding, even with his surge in early polling among Republican candidates and friends telling him that he can win.

Obama is an incumbent building a massive war chest and riding an improving economy, and the Republican party wants to avoid another Hail Mary, unpredictable candidate. Of course, Trump said he could go the independent route, banking on voters dissatisfied with either party. But he has shown during his decades in the public eye that he prefers being Donald Trump the impresario to being a public servant.

Trump maintained that he isn't flirting with a presidential run to boost ratings for his reality show. "I don't need to do this for ratings on 'The Apprentice.' This is too important, our country is in trouble, our country is not being properly led," he told the Wall Street Journal.

But if he decides to run, he would need to expose his $2.7 billion financial empire (according to Forbes)  to the public. He boasted to Time that his finances are huge, "Far bigger than anyone knows. Far bigger than anyone would understand."

That statement sounds more like a Charlie Sheen #winning moment than the inspiring or more measured words of someone who wants to be taken seriously as the leader of the fragile free world.

But then, a more reasoned approach to campaigning doesn't necessarily deliver high ratings, and campaigns, like reality TV shows, live and die by their ratings, and polls, at least until the votes on election day are counted.

Watch: Donald Trump's potential run: Policy or publicity?

  • Dan Farber On Twitter»

    Dan has more than 20 years of journalism experience. He has served as editor in chief of, CNET News, ZDNet, PC Week, and MacWeek.

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